Youka Nitta's latest series to hit stateside is a supernatural mystery that defies easy classification. Because it is published in Wings it is technically considered "shojo," but besides the fact the male characters are a little too pretty, the story feels more like it straddles the shonen / seinen line.
Otodama: Voice From The Dead hardly covers new ground in the supernatural mystery genre but it offers generally solid, engaging case files. The title comes from a character's ability to "hear" supernatural phenomena -- sometimes Kaname can literally hear the "voice" of a dead person, but other times he's overwhelmed by a kind of static that most humans would otherwise find "imperceptible." This, of course, is a handy but burdensome ability since the dead can give him information about who killed them, although they may not always be able to communicate effectively (being murdered and all their emotions they experienced at the time of their death are difficult to translate to human speech). Kaname has partnered up with general good guy Hide, who offers his services as a "stalker buster," aka, a private detective. And together they fight crime looking impossibly attractive.
The two are former police and often have to enlist the help -- or reject the interference -- of Hide's brother, who has remained a police officer and struggles to maintain his position and solve crimes while working within a dysfunctional institution. Of course, he is so strait-laced he constantly finds himself conflicting with Hide and Kaname -- not to mention a sexy female policewoman -- because of their reliance upon the supernatural (in the case of Kaname) or psychology (in the case of the female police officer) to break cases. Hide's brother is uptight but he's also battling an organization that is often more concerned with "saving face" than doing what is right.
Each chapter follows a new case, but each case builds steadily upon the last, as dangerous suspects who are cleared in early parts of the book, return as new menaces later on. One thing I enjoy about the title is the characterization of the three main characters. Kaname's "ability" can be nasty one, and while he copes as best he can, he also finds comfort in the steady and supportive Hide. Kaname is a little on the angsty side, as his ability to live his life unimpeded has clearly been compromised by overwhelming supernatural sensory input. In spite of that, he isn't wallowing in suffering and takes sensible measures to alleviate his pain. Meanwhile, Hide's brother often finds himself at odds with the detective pair, as well as his eternal foil, the FBI-trained policewoman. I enjoyed watching him struggle against the unpredictable and actually start to question his slavish devotion to police regulations and appreciated his eventual decision to change-up his usual MO when faced with the unexpected.
Although the first volume was a fairly breezy read, the preview for the second hints at some fresh turmoil for Hide, who has heretofore been the only support system for his partner, Kaname. I'm looking forward to seeing the emotional stakes raised a little bit in the next volume and watching characters adapt to disruptions in their previously cemented roles.
Access to a digital copy of the work was provided by DMP.